Hitting a flush or a straight on the river is one of the many satisfying aspects of online poker
I would have gone as far as to say ‘exciting’ but didn’t want to come across as a poker ‘saddo’… It is interesting when we see our flush materialize as the last card is revealed – especially when the Turn also brought the wished-for suit – to feel like we got away with something. And that would indeed be the case!
There’s something about straight and flush draws that elicits a little too much anticipation, and there’s a danger that we can find ourselves paying too high a price for the chance to hit a big hand and perhaps take down a sizeable pot. Often – usually among new and inexperienced players – this is due to a lack of appreciation of the odds but, if we’re being honest, many people are guilty of indulging in a draw that isn’t really justified. We’re only human, after all…
But this is an important topic, especially with drawing possibilities cropping up as often as they do. Moreover, if we keep investing chunks of chips by over-paying for draws at each betting round, we’re in for some serious trouble because to do so is to simply throw away money. Remember that we might not win the pot even when we do hit our draw or, worse, could even end up all-in and lose to the nuts. The factor that in with the cumulative cost of paying over the odds, and chasing draws can be bad news for our bankroll.
Another problem with drawing when we shouldn’t is that, as can happen so often in poker, one mistake can lead to another. In this case, a common scenario is when we’ve paid too much to see our draw fail on the River, and are left sitting pretty with nowhere to go. The temptation is then to try to win the now sizeable pot that we’d been hoping for, and the only chance is with a bluff which, given how the betting has gone, might look a bit fishy (if you will…). This might work occasionally, but it’s generally not great to be in the habit of missing expensive draws and watching our chips ultimately heading across the virtual felt to be added to someone else’s stack.
Poker Odds Tip: Flush and open-ended straight draws are roughly 2:1 to hit by the River
We should try to carve those (approximate) odds permanently in to our poker minds. It should help us make prudent, sensible decisions and in turn, save loads of money! Yet so many players don’t bother. Even worse, these draws tend to lure us in with the dual promise of the thrill of a gamble and a juicy pay-off. Experienced players seem to ignore the facts rather than give up the unjustified chase.
For example, we’re dealt a couple of decent diamonds and the Flop teasingly throws up another two. Armed with the above info, we know that we will make our flush by the River roughly 35% of the time, and can factor this in should we face a meaningful bet. And – surprise, surprise – it’s not as simple as that because there’s another betting round to go before the River. Therefore, we need to consider the implications of a diamond not appearing on the Turn. Many players will pay a premium to continue the quest, but now, with just one card to come, that 35% has come down to just a 20% chance of hitting. Most of the time, then, we’ll miss our draw. That means we might well be habitually playing hands like this: call pre-flop because we like to play any two suited cards, pay over the odds when the Flop brings a flush draw, settle for even less value to keep our hopes alive on the Turn, miss the flush thanks to the fruitless River and bluff away a pile of chips after already committing more than we should have. Looking at it in black and white it seems like very poor play indeed. And that, of course, is because it is.
In fact, we shouldn’t have been getting involved in the first place. But we were dealt suited hole cards, and that seems like a special kind of hand, doesn’t it? Actually, the answer is: not really. Another poker fact that, when considering our options pre-flop, might help us avoid creating a rod for our own back, is that when we have two suited hole cards, two or more of that suit will pop up on the Flop less than 12% of the time.
The golden rule is, then, to go with a draw only when the odds justify it, such as when we can go along for the ride because a lone opponent doesn’t play aggressively enough, or we can get in under the radar in a multi-player pot that also brings with it a potentially large reward. N.B. In multi-way pots always be aware that another player might also be drawing for the same flush, so card values could be crucial.
As always, value is key, and paying through the nose is foolhardy and, ultimately, a sure-fire way to lose a lot of money in the long-run.
Finally, it’s worth reminding ourselves how to handle this kind of situation on the other side of the equation. If we have a strong (made) hand on the Flop and our opponent could be on a draw, we need to make them pay dearly for the privilege of going with it. Consequently, it’s a mistake to instead make only a modest bet. However, in a strange reversal of the above, where players over-confidently pay too much chasing a draw, here the player in the lead can be afraid to bet with conviction.
When on a draw, we must look for value, and preferably be drawing to a big hand (ideally the nuts). Meanwhile, on the other side of this scenario, endeavour to make the opposition pay a premium to remain in the hand. It helps, of course, to be aware of the odds.